In January 2019, New York City introduced “X” as an option for birth certificates. And now, two years later, the state could join a growing number of locations across the U.S. that allow individuals to identify as “nonbinary” on their official state driver’s license.
Kate Sosin of the nonprofit newsroom The 19th reports that “the State Assembly and Senate passed the Gender Recognition Act Thursday night [June 10], granting nonbinary and intersex residents the option of ‘X’ gender markers in addition to ‘M’ and ‘F.’”
According to Sosin, in an effort to avoid deadnaming, “the bill also discards the longstanding rule that requires those seeking name changes to publish both their name and their name given at birth in a newspaper.”
Sander Saba, a New Yorker who sued the state last year to get their ID updated, is thrilled by the decision and says the bill’s passage “has both practical and symbolic meaning.”
“I felt a lot of times insecure about asking for the things that I need that other people don’t have to ask for, like having the correct name on the document, to have people use my correct pronouns,” Saba said. “I’ve often felt that these asks are a burden to others … but having a law like this passed shows that at least the people in charge of our state do not see this as an inconvenience.”
Once New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the bill, a process that seems all but certain, Sosin reported that New York would “become the 21st state to issue gender-neutral driver’s licenses and state IDs, in addition to Washington, D.C..”
The New York bill also “updates the state’s birth certificate policy for gender-diverse residents, including minors who can update their documents with parental consent.”
Ethan Rice, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal, who is representing Saba, is pleased with the state’s decision, but also added that it’s something that has already taken too long and should have happened years ago — if for no other reason than because of the huge paperwork discrepancies the issue can bring about for trans and nonbinary people alike.
“Just to have your government recognize you as who you are is hugely important,” Rice told Sosin. “For a lot of people, to not have mismatched documents that out you in different ways or that can lead to people believing that you have fraudulent identity documents.”
New York Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, a co-sponsor of the Gender Recognition Act, agreed, saying the bill was long overdue and thanked all the nonbinary and transgender residents and lobbyists who have pushed for its passage for years.
“I really didn’t have to convince anybody,” he said. “Trans people are now much more willing to reach out to their legislators and go to them and say, ‘I live in this community, and this is what I need.’”